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Chinese: Grow very thin but eat more?

By Becky Li
China.org.cn staff reporter

Many people say there are three kinds of delicious meals in the world. Everyone includes Chinese and French food, the only argument being over which is the third. Some favor Italian meals, some suggest Turkish, while others vote for Thai cooking. Although opinions differ widely, people have a consensus that diet tends to reflect different ethnic habits, cultures and even ways of thinking. 许多人说世上有三种美味佳肴。大家都把中国大餐和法国大餐列在其中,唯一争论的是谁属第三,有些人喜欢意大利大餐,有些人说是土耳其大餐,而有些人说是泰国大餐。虽然意见各不相同,但大家都认为饮食反映出不同的民族有不同的生活习惯,不同的文化,甚至不同的思维方式。
During a dinner party in a restaurant in Beijing several years ago, dishes were served very slowly. About 20 people, including some international experts, attended the party, which was held by my department to celebrate New Year’s Day. 几年前在北京的一次宴会上,当时一道道菜上得很慢。那天约20人出席宴会,其中包括一些外国专家,这是我们部门举办的一个新年庆祝会。
The banquet had been going on for about one hour but only half of the dishes had been served by then. This particular half had already included seven to eight dishes. 宴会进行到大约一小时,菜刚刚上了一半,但这一半已经包括了八道菜。
An American lady who sat next to me was visiting China for the first time. She thought the party might be coming to an end since so many dishes had been served already. I told her this was not so. She asked me, “Do you Chinese often treat guests with so many dishes?” I said, “In China, we usually order many more than 10 dishes for our guests for such kind of party.” 坐在我旁边的一位美女士是首次访问中国。她当时以为上了这么多菜,宴会可能该结束了了。我告诉她情况不是这样。她问我:“你们中国人经常点这么多菜款待客人吗?”我说:“在中国,在这样宴会上我们经常给客人点十道以上的菜。”
The American lady was very surprised. “There are so many delicious foods served for a department party. No wonder Chinese cuisine is so famous.” 这位美女士很吃惊。“一个部门聚会竟然点这么多道菜,难怪中国菜这么出名。”
But after a while, she asked me another question. “There is a strange phenomenon. You Chinese eat so many delicious foods, but why are you so thin? By contrast, we Americans eat less than you Chinese do, so why are we fatter and stronger than you Chinese?” 但是过了一会儿,她又问了我一个问题:“有一个奇怪的现象:你们中国人吃这么多美食,怎么长得这么瘦呢?相反,我们美国人吃得比你们中国人少,但为什么我们长得比你们中国人胖而且结实呢?”
I was tongue-tied at that time, not sure how to answer. What she said, after all, was reasonable. Most of my Chinese colleagues at the table that day were thin and weak looking, while all the Americans there looked so strong and healthy. 我一时无从回答。她说的的确对。那天出席宴会的我的中国同事大都又瘦又弱,而在场的美国人看上去又壮又结实。
One of my colleagues explained to her that China is a hospitable nation. “When treating guests, we usually prepare or order a full table of dishes. Only in this way can we feel that our guests are not being neglected,” she said. 我的一位同事给她解释说中国是个礼仪之邦。“款待客人时,我们经常点一大桌菜。我们认为只有这样才会让客人感到主人的热情,”她说。
Personally I think Chinese pay particular attention to the preparation of meals so they have a very exquisite balance of color and flavor in various dishes to complement reach other; meanwhile, Westerners pay closer attention to the aspects of nutrition and health protection. This is the main difference between Chinese and Westerners in their concepts of diet. It also somewhat reflects the difference between Chinese and Westerners in terms of overall diet culture. 我个人认为,中国人准备饭菜时,很讲究饭菜的色香味均衡搭配,而西方人更注重营养和健康保养。这点是中国人和西方人在饮食方面观念不同之处。这也在某种程度上反映出中国人和西方人饮食文化的不同。
Chinese food is also different from Western food in the ways we prepare it before cooking and our ways of eating it. Chinese cut the original ingredients into bite sizes, then stir fry, fry or steam them for a short time. They eat the food with chopsticks without any real need for further cutting. Westerners tend to cook ingredients in bigger pieces and then leave the individual to cut the food on their plates with knives and forks.


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